Rights of and Obligations on a Widow

It is surely one of the greatest sorrows to loose a husband. Husbands have been made guardians of their wives. When a women becomes widow, she bears a loss that cannot be counted. Loosing husband means loosing a life partner, the better half. Husband provides for his wife. It is his duty to feed her, cloth her, look after her and above all, love her. When a person who dutifully loves you leaves you, it is indeed hard to bear.

There are certain things that a widow is ordered to do. And there are certain things, that people should do with the widow. First, we will see what should a widow do after her husband's death. Allah swt say in Quran;
[002:234] The surviving widows of the deceased among you, must remain unmarried for a period of four months and ten days. After they complete their (prescribed) term (they are free to decide their future); you bear no sin for anything they do with themselves in an accepted manner. Allah is well aware of everything you do. 
Four months and ten days in the mourning time period for a muslim lady who widowed. It is the rule Allah swt has revealed. Of course, there is more to it. According to the scholars, this is the time period safe to see if the women conceives. And it is the time period after which she is free to marry anyone. Thus, islam has put a safe limit of time for the women and the husband's family to see if there is any chance of an offspring to come. Of course, of spring belongs to his father's family. Then there is the mourning element also in this time period. After the iddah, the woman is free to get married and lead her life with another man in a wedlock. Allah swt say in Quran;
[002:235] You bear no sin if you drop a hint to those (widowed) women of marriage proposal, or keep (such thoughts) to yourself. Allah knows that naturally you would think about them. But do not engage in a secret tryst; do not go beyond uttering the generally recognized remark. Definitely, do not contract (or consummate) marriage in secret before the prescribed period of waiting is over. Know it (for sure) that indeed Allah knows whatever is in your heart. So fear Him, and know (for sure) that Allah is the most Forgiving and the most Merciful. 
In pagan arab, and still in the pagan world, when a woman used to become widow, she used to lead a life of misery. She was not allowed to wear clean dress. She was not allowed to live in a clean place, instead, she used to live in the dirties, or oldest corner of the house. But islam abolished all these pagan practices. Islam gave widows, their due right to lead their life happily, and islam told women that they could live a better life even after they became widow. Then there is the rule in islam that if a women is left behind and her husband knows that it is a death travel, then this is what he should do and leave for her;
[002:240] Those among you who face death and leave behind widows, should bequeath to them the living expenses for (at least) a year, as well as the residence. (However) you bear no sin if they leave on their own, to pursue whatever they want in an accepted manner. Allah is Almighty, and all-Wise.
Following hadith is the explanation of this verse.

Bukhari, volume 7, Book 63, Number 256:

Narrated Mujahid:
(regarding the Verse): 'If any of you dies and leaves wives behind,' That was the period of the 'Iddah which the widow was obliged to spend in the house of the late husband. Then Allah revealed: And those of you who die and leave wives should bequeath for their wives a year's maintenance and residence without turning them out, but if they leave, there is no blame on you for what they do of themselves, provided it is honorable (i.e. lawful marriage) (2.240) Mujahid said: Allah has ordered that a widow has the right to stay for seven months and twenty days with her husband's relatives through her husband's will and testament so that she will complete the period of one year (of 'Iddah). But the widow has the right to stay that extra period or go out of her husband's house as is indicated by the statement of Allah: 'But if they leave there is no blame on you,... ' (2.240) Ibn 'Abbas said: The above Verse has cancelled the order of spending the period of the 'Iddah at her late husband's house, and so she could spend her period of the 'Iddah wherever she likes. And Allah says: 'Without turning them out.' 'Ata said: If she would, she could spend her period of the 'Iddah at her husband's house, and live there according to her (husband's) will and testament, and if she would, she could go out (of her husband's house) as Allah says: 'There is no blame on you for what they do of themselves.' (2.240) 'Ata added: Then the Verses of inheritance were revealed and the order of residence (for the widow) was cancelled, and she could spend her period of the 'Iddah wherever she would like, and she was no longer entitled to be accommodated by her husband's family. 
Widow is not left alone in islam, as she is left alone in other religions. Islam has made it obligatory that a widow should be given her due right in her husband's property. The following verse explains it;
[004:012] Your share is half of what your wives leave behind, provided they have no child. If they have children, then your share is a quarter of what they leave behind, after paying off any legacy bequeathed, and debt incurred. Your widows’ share is a quarter of what you leave behind, provided you have no children. But if you have children, then their share is an eighth of what you leave behind, after paying off any legacy bequeathed, and debt incurred. If the deceased  man or woman  is not survived by any children or parent, but has a brother and a sister, then each of them would inherit a sixth. Should there be more than two (siblings), then they shall share equally in a third, after paying any legacy bequeathed, and debts incurred. (Let there be) no harm (to the heirs). These are instructions from Allah! And Allah is all-Aware, and the most Forbearing! 
Compare the rights of a widow with the obligations put on her, and you will see that islam has given so many rights to a women in any state. While most people think a widow is nothing but a lost person, islam re assures her that she is not lost. And she is not alone. Even her financial needs are assured in islam. Unfortunately, the current muslim societies do not recognize their rights, rather they only focus on what should a widow do. They do not understand that helping out a widow is a deed of huge reward as explained in the following hadith.

Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 35:

Narrated Safwan bin Salim:
The Prophet said "The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person, is like a warrior fighting for Allah's Cause or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all the night." Narrated Abu Huraira that the Prophet said as above. 
If these benefits and order of Allah swt are considered seriously, our women will never feel alone and weak. May Allah swt guide us all. Amin.
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